How do companies like Apple continue to exceed their competitors’ expectations? If you ask CEO Tim Cook, he will tell you that it all comes down to resilience. Building professional resilience in a team-based setting is important. Stability in times of uncertainty is a sink-or-swim factor for businesses figuring out how to navigate the pandemic, especially in a remote-work environment. While we may never have a year quite like the one we just had, your team will always face make-or-break challenges. For these reasons, I have identified some strategies and questions to ask yourself to help you build professional resilience.
Do your team members have a genuine affinity for one another?
Resilience cannot exist in teams unless members genuinely care about each other’s well-being. It is difficult to build these types of bonds in any work setting, but it is even more challenging when employees do not have any opportunities for in-person dialogue. Given the current state of the world, fostering sincere compassion among teammates may take time.
Organizational leadership should be doing everything they can to make sure that their colleagues care about each other. Fortunately, leaders can foster empathy through a commitment to elevating the team as a whole and not solely seeking personal accolades. One tactic to build trust is in encouraging team members to share personal stories.
Encouraging team members to share personal highlights from both within and outside of the workplace fosters vulnerability. In return, you will find that your team feels more comfortable speaking their minds honestly and respectfully.
How is your team thinking on the spot?
I have a hard time believing that working out of the office for more than an entire calendar year was on anyone’s list of events to expect in 2020. Can your colleagues expect the unexpected? How does your team react to unforeseen circumstances?
Leaders encourage resilience by encouraging on-the-spot thinking. On-the-spot thinking means having a back-up plan and welcoming new challenges when even the back-up plan falls through. Note that once your team builds professional resilience, upkeep is just as necessary. Leaders should always encourage their team members to refine their strategy-building approaches. When recruiting new employees with on-the-spot thinking skills, focus on candidates who bring problem-solving and risk management together.
Is your team transparent about their progress and expectations?
Resilient teams are empowered to express their fears and concerns. They know that their peers will not hold their opinions against them because aggregate success dominates their strategy. A parallel belief called “psychological safety” describes how team members feel that they can speak without consequence. Leaders must maintain psychological safety in their teams. Otherwise, there is less of an opportunity to have frank discussions.
I find that resilience requires a self-awareness level that insulates team members from taking others’ opinions personally. For this reason, having an independent observer might be something that you opt to find for your next team brainstorming session. An objective representative to give frank assessments of the team’s dynamic will offer your team a neutral perspective on overall progress.
I also believe that anyone in a professional leadership position should consider the process of co-elevation when building resilience and setting expectations. Co-elevation entails the establishment of clear, concise guidelines about the team. Team members should not feel reluctant to ask for help, nor should they hesitate to offer a hand to a struggling colleague. To assess whether such a reluctance exists, I suggest doing a “temperature check” at the beginning of meetings. Ask the team whether their energy is high, low, or somewhere in the middle. That might give you a better reading if some team members feel ill-equipped in their performance or are perhaps stretched too thin.
About Bo Parfet
Bo Parfet is a philanthropist, real estate professional, and co-founder of Denali Venture Philanthropy. As the organization’s CEO, Parfet identifies and partners with social entrepreneurs who share his community values. A native of both Michigan and Colorado, he resides in Boulder with his wife, Meredith, and their children. In his free time, Parfet seeks adventure at a social distance while pondering his next mountain climbing travels once the world overcomes COVID-19.